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CONTENDERS

SCOUT'S TAKE

KEY QUESTION

Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are as good a 1-2 as any, but with Dallas Keuchel gone and Lance McCullers out for the season, how is the rest of the rotation going to shake out? Wade Miley is a lesser version—a much lesser version—of Keuchel. Collin McHugh is trying to transition back to starting. They could take a step back here.

UNDERRATED

Houston adding Michael Brantley was one of the best under-the-radar signings. After ankle surgery [in 2017] on top of a few shoulder surgeries, you wondered if Brantley would ever be the same guy. But his swing is back, and the dude even stole a dozen bases.

ON THE CUSP

Josh James is the x-factor on the pitching staff. He showcased his three pitches in the playoffs, and I love his presence. They won't push him early on, but he's going to be a huge weapon down the stretch and in the postseason.

LAST LICKS

AJ Hinch has been the model for managing the bridge between analytics and the players.... There's young talent coming, but the scary thing is that their core guys, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman, are still getting better.

THE PAYOFF PITCH

THE SELECTION of Carlos Correa with the first pick in the 2012 draft was a defining moment for the Astros' new front office. Correa shot to the majors in less than three years, won the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year award at 20 and was the shortstop for a World Series winner at 22. So why does he feel so disappointing at 24? Perhaps it's the injuries—a torn left-thumb ligament in '17, a bad back in '18—that have cost him 50 games in each of the last two years. Perhaps it's the career lows in batting average, homers, OBP and slugging he had in 2018. Perhaps it's the way his speed has vanished and his defense eroded: Correa has just six stolen base attempts and two triples in two seasons, and his numbers at shortstop in '18 (--4 DRS) were his worst ever. When healthy, Correa has shown he can be an MVP candidate—but he needs to stay healthy for a full season.

OVER UNDER

96.5

With the AL's best starting duo, a lockdown bullpen and Michael Brantley joining the stacked lineup, Houston could top its franchise-record 103 wins set just last season.

LINEUP

CF George Springer

.265/22 HR/.434 SLG

3B Alex Bregman

.286/31 HR/10 SB

2B José Altuve

.316/13 HR/17 SB

SS Carlos Correa

.239/15 HR/65 RBI

LF Michael Brantley

.309/17 HR/12 SB

1B Yuli Gurriel

.291/13 HR/.428 SLG

DH Tyler White

.276/12 HR/.533 SLG

RF Josh Reddick

.242/17 HR/7 SB

C Robinson Chirinos

.222 BA/18 HR/.338 OBP

BENCH

IF/OF Aledmys Díaz

.263 BA/18 HR/.453 SLG

OF Tony Kemp

.263 BA/6 HR/9 SB

FANTASY BREAKOUT

Moving from the bullpen to the rotation, COLLIN MCHUGH will get the run support to pile up the wins and has 200-K potential.

ROTATION

RH Justin Verlander

16 W/2.52 ERA/0.90 WHP

RH Gerrit Cole

15 W/2.88 ERA/1.03 WHP

RH Collin McHugh

6 W/1.99 ERA/0.91 WHP

LH Wade Miley

5 W/2.57 ERA/1.22 WHP

BULLPEN

CL Roberto Osuna

21 S/2.37 ERA/7.6 k9

RH Will Harris

3.49 ERA/1.09 WHP/10.2 K9

RH Héctor Rondón

3.20 ERA/1.32 WHP/10.2 K9

MANAGER

AJ Hinch